Kirk Cousins' latest COVID absence gave Kellen Mond, Sean Mannion and all of Vikings Nation an extended invitation to ramp up the consideration of the team's backup quarterback battle. Sifting through all the noise and nonsense, we are left with these truths after Sunday's 26-20 Vikings preseason loss to the Raiders:
- The backup QB probably doesn't matter. Cousins has only missed two starts in the last seven seasons, and one of them was in 2019 when the Vikings had nothing to play for in the season finale. His highly publicized absence from the Green Bay game last season dashed any faint hope of a playoff berth, but overall he is a durable, above-average quarterback and any replacement would be a step down.
- If you overvalue backup quarterbacks, blame Case Keenum. In the perfect storm of 2017, Keenum took over for an injured Sam Bradford and a not-ready-to-return Teddy Bridgewater and led the Vikings to the NFC title game.
His career season was deemed (correctly) unsustainable, leading the Vikings to sign Cousins. While it's true that a good backup quarterback is the sort of thing you don't need until you do, finding one who performs the way Keenum did in 2017 is as unlikely as it is probably unnecessary given Cousins' durability.
- All that said, I think we saw Sunday that Mond is improving but that he might not even be ready to be a true backup QB. If the Vikings aren't comfortable giving Mond that role, they should be looking outside the building for a low-cost alternative as marginal insurance.
- The answer definitely is not Mannion, at least not when it comes to game action. There is zero evidence that he could win a game or two as a spot starter. And with an offensive-minded head coach in place, there should be less need for Mannion's presence as a support for Cousins.
- So the choice should be clear: Either trust Mond as the No. 2, or find another option while giving Mond more time to develop. Even if his ceiling is no higher than low-cost backup quarterback, Mond has value. At this point, though, it's unlikely that Mond will ever even rise to the lofty position of No. 99 on NFL Network's list of top players.
This is Cousins' team, for better or worse — none of which will stop the constant chatter about who is warming the seat below him on the depth chart.